The author also serves up variations such as finally finding the meaning of life, never finding the meaning of life, becoming a character in living people’s dreams, and reincarnation as a choice of beings. There are sad tales, such as “Egalitaire,” which ends with a God who is depressed because She wanted Heaven to be perfect for everyone so She gave everyone true equality, which they interpret as being in hell.
There are also laugh-out-loud stories like “The Unnatural,” which puts us back among the living with one wish that will come true; unfortunately, we choose to eliminate death, never imagining the repercussions.
Eagleman employs a whimsical, even poetic, style to convey these scenarios, and the result is a dreamlike collection of how one man envisions existence after death. What adds to the enjoyment is his inclusion of science, physics, and technology in the details. Whether we are just a series of ones and zeroes or are doomed to watch television for all eternity is unimportant; what is important is that we don’t know what happens after death.
Eagleman gives 40 possibilities, each of them as improbable as our own preconceived notions. Where did you learn of the afterlife or its nonexistence? Was it tribal lore, family tradition, religious training, or fairy tales? Sum presents a new option, imagine-it-yourself. Build your own which will be just as valid as any other. Believe in it, believe in someone else’s, or don’t believe at all.
Sum is best read leisurely. Each tale is an entity unto itself but, because they are so good, there is a temptation to read the next and the next and the next. Don’t do it. Take a few moments, relax, and reflect. This is not a book to rush through, there is no greater reward at the end than at the beginning.
Bottom Line: Would I buy Sum? Yes. Not only would I buy it, I would keep it. Although I have a reverence for books, I don’t keep them after reading, I pass them on for others to enjoy. Limited storage space encourages this practice. However, some books deserve one of the precious few spots available because I will want to revisit them. Sum is one of those books.